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Paging Lady Grantham

If you need something to tide you over till the next season of Downton Abbey arrives, you should get over to the Yale Center for British Art before June 2. The exhibit that is currently filling two floors of the Center, Edwardian Opulence: British Art at the Dawn of the Twentieth Century, is a rich look at the painting, sculpture, fashion, and design of the brief period when Britain was still imperially dominant but becoming effusively and irrepressibly modern. (Just the sort of historical point that Downton Abbey aims for when it's not busy with soap-opera silliness.)

Attesting to the exuberance of the first decade of the century and its "Gospel of fun" (as opposed to the Victorian "Gospel of work") are diamond-laden tiaras, ostrich-feather fans, Fabergé "bell pushes" (jeweled electric buttons with which to summon the help), photos of aristocrats posing beside their automobiles, and a silk dress with silver and gold thread and a train about a kilometer long. You can also hear sound recordings of eminences of the era and see film of King Edward VII's coronation.

The exhibition, curated by Angus Trumble and Andrea Wolk Rager, was organized by the Center and draws on its collections, but it also includes a wealth of loaned material from collections around the world. (The Fabergé bell pushes are courtesy of the Queen herself.) Really, you'd have to be a Dowager Countess not to approve.

Filed under Center for British Art, England, Downton Abbey
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